"O gentlemen, the time of life is short;
To spend that shortness basely were too long,
If life did ride upon a dial's point,
Still ending at the arrival of an hour."
--SHAKESPEARE: Henry IV.
On the second day after the Archery Meeting, Mr. Henleigh Mallinger Grandcourt
was at his breakfast-table with Mr. Lush. Everything around them was agreeable:
the summer air through the open windows, at which the dogs could walk in from
the old green turf on the lawn; the soft, purplish coloring of the park beyond,
stretching toward a mass of bordering wood; the still life in the room, which
seemed the stiller for its sober antiquated elegance, as if it kept a conscious,
well-bred silence, unlike the restlessness of vulgar furniture.
Whether the gentlemen were agreeable to each other was less evident. Mr.
Grandcourt had drawn his chair aside so as to face the lawn, and with his left leg
over another chair, and his right elbow on the table, was smoking a large cigar,
while his companion was still eating. The dogs--half-a- dozen of various kinds
were moving lazily in and out, taking attitudes of brief attention--gave a vacillating
preference first to one gentleman, then to the other; being dogs in such good
circumstances that they could play at hunger, and liked to be served with
delicacies which they declined to put in their mouths; all except Fetch, the
beautiful liver-colored water-spaniel, which sat with its forepaws firmly planted
and its expressive brown face turned upward, watching Grandcourt with
unshaken constancy. He held in his lap a tiny Maltese dog with a tiny silver collar
and bell, and when he had a hand unused by cigar or coffee-cup, it rested on this
small parcel of animal warmth. I fear that Fetch was jealous, and wounded that
her master gave her no word or look; at last it seemed that she could bear this
neglect no longer, and she gently put her large silky paw on her master's leg.
Grandcourt looked at her with unchanged face for half a minute, and then took
the trouble to lay down his cigar while he lifted the unimpassioned Fluff close to
his chin and gave it caressing pats, all the while gravely watching Fetch, who,
poor thing, whimpered interruptedly, as if trying to repress that sign of discontent,
and at last rested her head beside the appealing paw, looking up with piteous
beseeching. So, at least, a lover of dogs must have interpreted Fetch, and
Grandcourt kept so many dogs that he was reputed to love them; at any rate, his
impulse to act just in that way started from such an interpretation. But when the
amusing anguish burst forth in a howling bark, Grandcourt pushed Fetch down
without speaking, and, depositing Fluff carelessly on the table (where his black
nose predominated over a salt- cellar), began to look to his cigar, and found, with
some annoyance against Fetch as the cause, that the brute of a cigar required
relighting. Fetch, having begun to wail, found, like others of her sex, that it was